In this blog we hear from Catchment & Archive volunteer Antony Meadows, read on to find out about his most recent discoveries!
I’ve been volunteering now with DCRT for more than 18 months, but for most of this year I’ve been spending more time in Chesterfield with the Hidden Heritage Secret Streams project. I don’t live in the town but I’m only half an hour away, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to discover somewhere new. I’ve really enjoyed it; I had no idea there were so many rivers and streams in the town. I’ve been prompted to look at old maps of Chesterfield to put where we’ve been into some historical context, as it’s quite difficult to imagine what was there in the past especially when you are not local.
Antony has been exploring Chesterfield Library’s archives for old maps!
Discovering Chesterfield’s industrial past has been fascinating. I knew about the glass industry as my father had a chance to transfer to Dema Glass from where he worked at Glass Bulbs in Harworth. He didn’t go in the end, or else I might have been brought up in Chesterfield. One thing I wasn’t aware of though, was the local pottery industry. This neatly brings me to the reason for this blog.
One of the things I enjoy about litter picking – as well as the sense of achievement when we clean up an area and have left it in a better state than when we arrived – is the possibility of finding something interesting or unusual. Basically I’m nosey I guess! Recently I found a few items of pottery that I thought were interesting. First up was a piece of a brown saltglaze jar, the type of thing you can often see in antique shops which you can use for storing utensils in for example. Luckily I found the best bit of it as it had an inscription, “W Cooper Wine Merchant Chesterfield”. I contacted Chesterfield Museum who found an entry in Kellys Directory for 1895 showing a William Henry Cooper, provisions dealer and wine merchant, listed at 11 Holywell Street, Chesterfield.
I’ve also found two other pottery items that turn out to be from ceramic water filters. The first one had enough information written on it to discover, via google, a company called Brownlow of Tonbridge who manufactured water filters in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I found more pieces of this as you will see in the photo, but few of them fitted together, unfortunately. Finally I also found a fragment of pottery with “Fract” and more enigmatic wording. Not hard to guess this might be Pontefract, but I couldn’t work out what the rest of it might mean. I contacted Wakefield Museums and they told me my piece was also part of a water filter. They kindly sent me this photograph of a rather nice example in Pontefract Museum, and my bit is part of the elaborate decoration. Apparently Chesterfield potteries made water filters for many companies so it’s possible they could have been made there.
After this I’m hoping to find more interesting things along Chesterfield’s rivers!